The Atlanta Declaration

Episcopal News Service. December 19, 1989 [89274]

We come together as members of different faiths. Our traditions teach us different ways to embrace God. We represent humanity's wide range of ways to be human. Across our diversity, however, AIDS magnifies the fact that we are also one. AIDS is not only an affliction of individuals or particular groups. AIDS is an affliction of the whole human family.

Our religious vision proclaims that living with AIDS/HIV is a condition in which we must all participate actively. It is a scandal that many people living with AIDS/HIV suffer and grieve in secret. We seek hope amidst the moral and biological tragedies of this epidemic in order to pass on hope for generations to come.

The tragedy of the human immunodeficiency virus [HIV] epidemic has confronted each of us personally, each of our religious institutions, as well as the whole society with the need for a new understanding of the interconnections between physical disease and social responsibility. It calls for creative action among all our institutions -- medical, social, economic, political, educational, and religious -- for the purpose of providing systemic, compassionate attention to the epidemic. The religious community in particular is faced with these extended responsibilities:

ATo embody and proclaim hope, life, and healing in the midst of suffering;
B.To assure that all whose lives are affected by the epidemic will have access to compassion, nonjudgmental care, respect, support, and assistance;
C.To generate a prophetic vision of society in which the "general welfare" becomes the abiding obligation of public, private, and voluntary sectors of society;
D.To provide accurate and comprehensive information for the public regarding HIV transmission, related behavior patterns, and means of prevention;
E.To transform public attitudes and policies so that adequate care and appropriate preventative measures will be available for all people in need.

Fulfilling these responsibilities will require of us new commitments as individuals, as religious bodies, and as a nation.

As individuals:

Because we are relatives, friends, and neighbors of persons with AIDS/HIV, and are ourselves persons living with AIDS/HIV, we commit ourselves to personal ministries of care for those infected with and those affected by HIV;

Because we are members and leaders of religious institutions, we commit ourselves to the work of ensuring that our institutions renew their calling to ministries of health and healing;

Because we are citizens of this nation, we commit ourselves to establishing public policies through which all citizens contribute to the care of all persons with AIDS and to the health and well-being of the nation as a whole.

As religious bodies:

Because the presence of HIV calls us to mutual cooperation, we commit ourselves to work within interfaith coalitions wherever and whenever feasible;

Because the needs in local communities are so great, we commit ourselves to promote and support local interfaith coalitions for education, provision of care, community service, public policy advocacy, and specialized training for religious professionals and laity in care and counseling;

Because religious professionals, faith communities, and the public need accurate and comprehensive education, we commit ourselves to provide accurate and complete information about the transmission and prevention of AIDS/HIV disease; and we commit ourselves to produce and promote culturally and linguistically appropriate HIV-related educational materials -- audio, video, and printed -- in a context that promotes individual self-esteem, teaches the fundamental goodness of human sexuality, and supports the integrity of responsible and caring intimate relationships.

As citizens:

Because the President's Commission on the HIV Epidemic has issued a comprehensive, balanced, and informed report based upon the expertise of hundreds of America's best scientists, as well as the testimony of many other professionals and persons living with AIDS/HIV, we call for immediate implementation of these recommendations;

Because HIV is a threat to the life and health of all people in the nation, we call upon President Bush to demonstrate moral and political leadership in assuring adequate care for all who are afflicted and responsible federal action including:

  • protecting against HIV-related discrimination of all forms;
  • expanding of drug-treatment programs to include all who choose them.
  • placing highest priority on AIDS/HIV education care programs within the African-American, Hispanic, Asian, Pacific Islander, and Native American communities;
  • for all HIV-infected persons:
  • eliminating of mandatory segregation and isolation in prisons as well as provision of humane and professional medical care;
  • assuring decent, appropriate, and affordable housing for the homeless;
  • continuation of AIDS service programs;
  • establishing comprehensive, affordable, and accessible health care;
  • ensuring expeditious approval by the Food and Drug Administration of AIDS/HIV treatments, expeditious experimental drug trials, easier access to promising AIDS/HIV treatments, and wider availability of new drugs to persons living with AIDS/HIV;
  • expanding the availability of residential health-care facilities, hospices, and affordable home care for persons with AIDS/HIV;
  • encouraging the prudent use of voluntary HIV antibody' testing with the strictest of safeguards whether anonymous or confidential as used for medical evaluation, epidemiological or prevention modalities;
  • advocating for the continuation of comprehensive prevention and risk-reduction programs for drug users, including the distribution of AIDS prevention information and materials, including bleach for the sterilization of hypodermic needles;
  • allowing otherwise eligible foreign nationals, without regard to their HIV status, access to visitation and/or citizenship in the United States.
As a people dedicated to a future of hope:

Because barriers among us based on religion, race, class, gender, and sexual orientation that continue to generate fear, persecution, and violence are intensified by the HIV pandemic, we call upon all sectors of our society, particularly our faith communities, to adopt as highest priority the elimination of racism, classism, sexism, and homophobia;

Because America's businesses and industries must address the presence of AIDS, we call upon its leaders to endorse and implement the "Ten Principles for the Workplace," and we commit our institutions to adopting these principles;

Because the presence of AIDS/HIV creates special needs among different people, we call for all sectors of society to contribute to support for infected infants and children in need of foster care and adoption services; to support HIV infected women who suffer discrimination from many sources; for families who need community care;

Because economic disparity and the poverty it engenders is a major contributing factor in the AIDS epidemic, and a barrier to the accessibility to prevention and treatment, we call upon all sectors of society to seek ways of eliminating poverty in a commitment to a future of hope and security.

Finally, we commit ourselves to call for accountability on the part of this nation's public officials and corporate leaders. It is a time for envisioning a new society, one committed to the health and welfare of all people, and united in anticipation for that time when we will know that to respond to today's crisis is our only hope for tomorrow.

Individuals from the following faith communities are among the initial endorsers of the Atlanta Declaration:

  • African Methodist Episcopal Church
  • America Baptist Churches in the USA
  • American Friends Service Committee
  • America Jewish Committee
  • Church of the Brethren
  • The Episcopal Church
  • Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
  • National Spirituality Assembly of the Bahais of the United States
  • Presbyterian Church (USA)
  • Reorganized Church of the Latter Day Saints
  • Roman Catholic Church
  • Southern Baptist Convention
  • Union of American Hebrew Congregations
  • Unitarian Universalist Association
  • United Church of Christ
  • United Methodist Church
  • Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches